Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Year Is Almost Upon Us...
...Only ONE Resolution For 2014

The Christmas carol Deck The Halls contains the line "Fast away the old year passes..." Time indeed passes swiftly, but 2012 and 2013 seemed to me to pass in the blink of an eye.  Though 2013 was a successful year for me in many respects, there were several resolutions that fell by the wayside.

Upon reflection, I realized part of the problem.  Several Eastern philosophies remind us of the importance of living in the moment.  Learning from the past is important, but dwelling on the past is a time suck, and while it is important to have goals and plans, you can 'tomorrow' yourself through an entire year before you know it!

So, while I do have the usual goals and plans for the impending year, I have only one resolution: to savor each day. Yes, we all have tedium and the demands of others to contend with each day, but throughout the day we are also exposed to beauty, humor, and kindness -- those are the moments we should focus on.

This November, like many Facebook users, each day I posted something that I was grateful for.  It's a good exercise, and though I am not posting them, each day I find some blessing for which I am thankful. The more you appreciate things, the more things there are to appreciate, sounds trite, but it definitely rings true to me.

When I lived in Upstate NY, I studied Reiki. Part of the training is learning the Five Principles. What I like best about them, you are encouraged to focus on the present -- don't worry about yesterday's failings or tomorrow's obstacles.  There are variations of the principles out there but the basic message is to:

At least for today:
Do not be angry,
Do not worry,
Be grateful,
Work with diligence,
Be kind to people.

Yes, the first two in particular can be hard, but being aware of your anger and worries gives you an opportunity to work through them, analyze their cause, and set them aside. Yes that guy that passed me on the left at a stop sign is rude, but dwelling on it is wasting precious time that could be used for something else, and besides, if he is that harried, his life must be one giant stress ball and I feel sorry for him. Yes, I say that, and no, I don't always practice it, but I am human after all -- the trick is to keep trying to practice  compassion, eventually it will be come habit.

I hope we are all able to not only take 2014 one day a time, but to appreciate all of the wonderful moments each day offers, from that first first sip of coffee in the morning to curling up in a nice, warm bed at the end of the day and everything in between.  Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Here I Go Again!...
...Moving Into A New Space

I grew up in a small, Vermont town. My sister and I were the fourth generation of our a family to be raised there. My parents closed on their home when I was only 9 days old; they bought it from my grandfather's cousin who had grown up in the house, which was built in the late 1800s by her parents.

Growing up, I never anticipated living in as many places or types of housing as I have. For the past three years I have lived in the upstairs apartment of a classic Chicago two-flat. After living in a studio apartment, it was like moving into a mansion! As you may have seen on previous posts to my blog, I have spent a fair amount of time and effort making the place more of a home, but the one thing we can always count on in life is change.

My lease expires at the end of the year and the building is in the process of being sold, so once again, I am gearing up for a move.

Though not as small as my old studio apartment, the new place is about half the space of my current digs. Admittedly, deciding what to keep, what to purge, and how to make the most of the new space is a bit daunting, but it is also an opportunity.

I plan to share how I make this apartment a home on this blog, so let me begin by showing you what I am starting with:

Looking East into the Living Room (approx. 11' x 17')
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige

Looking West toward the entrance.
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige

Living Room, North wall.  The double doors lead to a closet
and the arch passes into the dining room, which I will use
as my art studio.   (c)2013 Eric E. Paige

I am planning on using the living room as both a living and dining area and to use the dining room as my art studio.  The dining room is only 9' x 9', but the closet in the Living Room is actually wider than the doors would have you believe and so it will make a good place to store extra supplies.

The West wall of the Dining Room opens into the kitchen.
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige

The North wall is the only uninterrupted wall in the space.  I plan to extend the counter space from the kitchen into the studio along the North wall using materials from my current studio.  The empty space shown in the photo above should accommodate a bookcase or free standing shelving unit.

The East wall (above) and the South wall
(below) don't have a lot of usable space, but
I have a few ideas for making the most of it.
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige

Looking North from Studio into Living Room
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige

The Bedroom will be a bit of a challenge.  Partly because the room is oddly shaped (the apartment is a corner unit and the cross street runs at an angle), and partly because of the window placement.

The East and South walls of the Bedroom.
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige

I like being able to see all the windows and doors from my bed. So not sure whether to place the bed on the North or South wall. Both windows have a great view:

The South window looks out toward the center of the city.
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige

The East Window looks out onto Lake Michigan!
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige

I hope you will check back and see my progress, as well as some other special holiday posts that I've planned.  I picked up the keys today and took some detailed measurements.  With only three weeks to go, I had better get to work!

Monday, November 4, 2013

And I'm Back...Quite A Busy Fall!

Hello, it's been awhile! The last few months have been exceptionally busy. The Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest was a huge success, which meant much of September was spent working on new paintings for an art fair in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood (A good 'problem' to have!).

My booth at the Edgewater Fall Art Fair
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved
The Edgewater Fall Art Fair also went well.  It was the first time this event was held, and despite an evening storm that moved our tents around, a good time was had by all.

Though the temperatures have turned cool, most of September and October were beautiful here in Chicago. My camera and I were quite busy.

My favorite neighborhood attraction is the local beach. Rogers Park's lakefront parks, Loyola Park and Hartigan Beach are incredibly beautiful.  We are lucky to not only have a beautiful stretch of sandy beach, but a grassy, shaded park area and a breakwater that offers an amazing view of the Chicago skyline.

Hartigan Beach
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige
Chicago Skyline, Loyola Park
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige
Breakwater, Loyola Park
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige
Hartigan Beach
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige
Self Portrait, Loyola Park
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige
Breakwater, Loyola Park
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige

Doughnuts on Wheels at The NOSH! (c)2013 Eric E. Paige
Beyond my neighborhood, I spent part of my time exploring Wicker Park, Bucktown, and Logan Square. One of my favorite ongoing attractions was The NOSH, an artisan food fair that was held every Saturday at the A.N. Pritztker School in Wicker Park.  Though the outdoor version ended last month, they have partnered with an indoor farmers' market for the winter (click the link above or more information). Every weekend was different with choices ranging from savory to sweet, plus there was music to boot!

The Classic Lunch Counter Experience at Johnny's Grill
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige
Elsewhere off the Blue Line, I spent some time exploring the Logan Square neighborhood. One gem I found was Johnny's Grill at 2545 N Kedzie Blvd.  A classic lunch counter, reminiscent of a Woolworth's Luncheonette or corner diner.  In fact, the place sports it's own parody of Edward Hopper's iconic "Nighthawks" with Johnny's substituted for Phillies. (Bonus: if you are in Chicago, you can see the original "Nighthawks" painting at The Art Institute of Chicago).

Of course, not all of the past couple months has been about food and hanging out at the beach. I have spent a fair amount of time revamping my website.  Please feel free to check out additional photos of Logan Square and some of my latest paintings.

I also have been working on my social media presence, you can now follow my art, culinary, DIY, and other adventures on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. See you on the web!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Save Green...
...By Going Green

For the first time in human history the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere reached 400 parts per million.  Global warming is a real thing and our consumption of fossil fuels is one of the main reasons this is happening. There seems to be an attitude these days that if a solution doesn't completely fix a problem, then it's not worth doing, but the fact of the matter is that most problems have multiple solutions and small steps add up to big journeys.

There are a lot of simple things we can do to help reduce our carbon footprint.  Today I am talking about one of my favorites, shopping at thrift stores. Balancing a full-time job with my art and writing is not easy, and I am not exactly rolling in dough. I have found thrift stores to be a great resource.

I have been pretty impressed by what people donate to these places.  Not only have I found some name brand clothing for pennies on the dollar (I am particularly fond of the Columbia rain jacket I got for $6.99), but I have outfitted my kitchen with some great appliances and cookware.

One day at a thrift store I happened to noticed a juicer that retails for around $100, priced at under $15. It looked complete and the motor ran when I tested it, so I decided to give it a try. As it turns out it was missing two pieces:  a tool to remove the filter assembly and the container to collect the waste pulp. The only piece I really needed was the tool to remove the filter (my mixing bowl, lined with a grocery bag collected the pulp just fine). The missing piece was under $10 (including shipping), so I was still ahead by more than $75.

Once I realized that I could order replacement parts fairly easily and cheaply, I started keeping my eyes out for other bargains.  I have a couple of really nice food processors now (I found two of one model, so now I have spare parts for even less than it costs to order replacements).

Not only can you find better quality items but you can often find vintage appliances that look way cooler and are built much better than their modern counterparts.  I have a couple of vintage blenders from the 1960s.  The motors are quieter (and probably better made) than the one in my more modern blender, and each one was well under $10. The best part is, the design for Oster blenders is virtually unchanged, so the gaskets, blades, and pitchers for their modern blenders fit my vintage beauties!

Lady Kenmore, my first vintage blender. 
Hint: Sears/Kenmore appliances are usually made
by name brand companies. I knew from the blade
assembly that this one was made by Oster.
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

Lady Kenmore meets 'Lord Oster'.  Bonus: the pitcher from
my more modern Osterizer will work on either of these.
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

My dining room table top I salvaged from a $6.99 coffee table I found at Goodwill (click here to see how I did it).  In my studio, I combined an old trellis with a clock I found at a thrift store to make a modern take on the classic grandfather clock (click here). I have also gotten quite a bit of lighting at thrift stores, see Affordable Lighting...With Just A Few Brushstrokes for more information.

(c)2013 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved)

(c)2013 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved)
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved)

I've also gotten some great books and even found art supplies and items I can re-purpose in an art piece.  The three pieces featured in my post A Trio of Trees...What's New In The Studio were all done on surfaces that I bought at thrift stores.

(c)2013 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

(c)2013 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

(c)2013 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

I've even been able to increase my storage space in the studio thanks to thrift stores. Storage containers can get pretty pricey, but I was able to buy and retrofit a rack with bins for under $10. Get the full story at I Can Always Use More Storage Space....

(c)2013 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

The benefits of buying thrift are multifold. Not only are you keeping stuff out of the landfills, but most of these stores are either raising money for a charity or are owned by a small, independent business person.  Sometimes what you buy is better made than something you buy new. If you find something you like better, you can either re-donate or sell the the old item and still come out ahead of the game.

Obviously, shopping thrift is a bit different.  You can't 'order' exactly what you want, so it may take a few trips before you find what your looking for.  These items aren't new, so inspect them carefully for things like frayed cords and missing safety features.  Check the store's return policy. My local Goodwill stores, for example, have a 10 day window and will only give you store credit (no cash refunds).

No, buying a used item won't instantly reverse global warming, but it will help get us there and you will be keeping something out the landfill and helping to support a charity or local businessperson, and you might even find something much better than new.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

2013 Glenwood Avenue Art Fest...
...Only A Week Away!

Thankfully, art has been occupying a healthy portion of my time lately.  I am doing two art fairs this year and the first is only a week away!  The Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest is one of my favorite Chicago Street Fairs.  The Art Fest is easily accessible via the CTA Red Line (Morse Stop) and features three separate performance stages plus more than 100 artists and vendors. The Fest is August 17th and 18th and more info can be found here.

The week before is always hectic, finishing and touching up paintings. In addition to original paintings, I will also be offering photographs and cards, including photos featured in previous blog posts:  "I Didn't Find Any Eggs...But I Did Find This Gem!" and "The Baha'i Temple In Wilmette...An Architectural Treasure"

Art Deco Bowling Alley, Logan Square Neighborhood
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige

Baha'i Temple, Wilmette, Illinois
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige

I am rarely without my camera, so be sure to check here and my photography site for new additions.  My recent photo essay of Millennium Park can be found here.

Bridgeway Connecting Millenium Park to the 
Art Institute of Chicago (c)2013 Eric E. Paige
Lurie Garden, Millennium Park
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige

Well, it's back to work for me.  I have five paintings I am working on and hope to have them all completed in time for the Art Fest.

"Grove Series" in progress. (c)2013 Eric E. Paige

If you can't make this fair (or even if you can), I will also be exhibiting at The Edgewater Fall Art Fair on September 28th and 29th. Details here. You can also view my painting website.

Have a great day!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sometimes When it Rains, It Pours...
But Did It Have To Pour INSIDE?!

Like much of the United States, we have had our share of rainstorms in the Windy City this year. The morning after a particularly intense one, I walked out into the hallway to find that even though storm had ended, it was still raining inside. I had been wanting to take care of the peeling paint and wall cracks in the front hall since I moved in, but now, with the paint falling off the ceiling in big sheets, I had additional incentive....

As the ceiling dried, the paint started peeling and the minerals in the plaster
started forming yellow crystals. (c)2013 Eric E. Paige

After the roofing company fixed the problem and the ceiling and walls had dried, I got down to business, or I guess in this case, up to business. The first step was to scrape off the peeling paint and the efflorescence (mineral crystals that formed as the water evaporated).

Scraped, sanded, and washed. 
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige
I also found a couple spots of mildew where water had gotten trapped behind loose paint. I used a spray bleach cleaner from a dollar store, but you can also make your own solution; most brands of bleach have instructions on the label. I then wiped down the walls and ceiling with water to remove any residues (there were tannins that leached from the ceiling joists).

Once I had a clean, dry surface, repairs could start. There are a lot of options for filling cracks, and if you have only a small amount of repair, an inexpensive jar of lightweight spackle will work just fine, but as I had some large cracks to fill and a time limit (the owner of the building was in the midst of moving and we needed to get things done quickly so it didn't interfere with showing his unit), I chose to use a setting-type joint compound. Whereas regular joint compound dries and you can rework it by adding water, the setting type cures, like cement. You have to work quickly, but the trade off is less waiting time between coats. For more information on the subject, see my post: Reclaiming Space...Bringing A Sun Porch From the 70s Into The 21st Century.

Tools of the trade, taping knife, joint tape, and
joint compound. (c)2013 Eric E. Paige
There were three main types of repairs I had to do: filling holes, filling cracks, and skim coating. Filling small holes is a relatively simple repair: you fill the hole with the compound, level it off with your putty or taping knife, and sand it. Sometimes, the compound shrinks and you get a slight depression where the hole was, another coat of compound and some sanding will take care of this.

Filling cracks can be more difficult. They can be the result of the building settling, which is an ongoing process, so the cracks often reappear. The minor cracks, I did just spackle over, but for the major ones I filled and reinforced them. For some of the mid-sized cracks (up to about 1/8") I used joint tape, a paper tape used to cover the gap (aka 'joint') between two pieces of sheet rock. I bought the smallest roll they had, as I only needed a few feet of tape. There is also a mesh 'tape' that has a light coating of adhesive to hold it in place while you 'mud' over it with the compound, but I find the paper is cheaper and much easier to work with.

This deep crack is caused by the building settling. If I just
filled it with joint compound, the crack would come back.
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige
I filled the cracks with the joint compound, spreading it out a bit wider than the tape. I then put a very light coat of the compound on the back of the tape (this helps ensure it all adheres to the surface and that you don't get air bubbles -- trust me, taking your time here will save you headaches later!). I then pressed the tape against the wall, carefully smoothing it with my taping knife to ensure it was well adhered and carefully applied a very thin coat over the top of the tape. Once the compound was dried, I applied a second coat which I feathered out well past the edge of the tape. If you look at a piece of sheetrock you will notice that the long edges are indented slightly, this is to accommodate the thickness of the tape and the joint compound. Since I was repairing a crack, there was no recessed area, so the next best thing is to cover the tape completely, gradually reducing the thickness of the coat as you get further from the tape. If you are using a taping knife rather than a putty knife and look down the edge of the blade, you will see that it has a slight bend in the middle. The high spot in the center helps ensure that more mud gets put over the taped area.

To repair the deep crack by the door way, I wanted something a little heavier duty, so I used some scraps of khaki I cut from a pair of ripped pants. I wet the fabric first, to ensure it gripped evenly to the mud.  If you want to go a little more high-tech, your home-improvement or hardware store sells various patching materials in metal or fiberglass, to cover  large holes and cracks. The procedure is basically the same, only if you have a self-adhesive patch, you only put mud on top of the patch, not underneath.

A layer of mud fills the crack and makes a base for the patch
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige

Scraps of khaki will reinforce the joint.
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige
The khaki, covered with more mud.  The
high spots left by the taping knife will sand
off pretty easily. (c)2013 Eric E. Paige
The final type of repair was skim coating. Since only some of the paint peeled, had I just painted over everything, you'd see a line where the paint chipped. To remedy this, I simply applied a thin layer of compound to even out the thickness. I didn't have to cover every square inch that had lost paint, but merely applied the compound over the uneven area and pulled from the paint (the high spot) to the plaster (the low spot) gradually tapering off (feathering), the amount of compound, just like I had done to cover the tape.

Skim coated, mud feathered out past the sharp
edges where the paint peeled. 
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige
A second coat fills any spots that were missed 
and any low spots that formed after the 
compound set.(c)2013 Eric E. Paige
Once all of the joint compound had cured I sanded  it smooth, taking care not too sand too hard and expose the tape. For the walls, I used a fine grit sanding sponge. The sponges last a long time and can be rinsed out, dried, and used again. On the ceiling I used a pole sander to knock off the real high spots and then feathered things out using a sanding sponge.  After the first sanding, there were some some spots that weren't even.  Since they were relatively shallow and would dry quickly, I used a premixed, lightweight joint compound to fill them. Sanding is a messy business, so a dropcloth, mask, and goggles, are must.

Sanded, primed, and ready for paint! 
(c)2013 Eric E Paige
I know a lot of paints say they are self priming, but stain-blocking primer is relatively inexpensive and dries in an hour.  My walls and ceiling were a flat finish, so I only primed over the patches and exposed plaster.  If I were using a glossier finish, I would of painted over the whole surface to ensure that the new paint doesn't 'flash' (variances in sheen because of the way the finish adheres to different surfaces). The stain blocking primer I used does a good job for most applications and is a waterborne product, so clean up is a breeze and the odor is low. There were a couple of spots where more tannin leached through the paint, causing the primer to yellow slightly in some spots.  Before coating with the final paint (in the Fall, when it is cooler, and I want to be inside), I will spot prime them with an oil or shellac based stain blocking primer, and then probably go over that with a bit of the waterborne primer, just to make sure the color takes evenly.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I Can Always Use More Storage...
...Turning A Toy Rack Into Art Supply Storage

As you may have noticed, I am a big fan of thrift stores and re-purposing.  I am always trying to find ways to store more supplies in my modestly sized studio.  This week I found this great rack for storing children's toys.

Great for sorting Legos, this old toy rack will get a new lease on life
in my art studio.  (c)2013 Eric E. Paige

At only $6.99, I couldn't resist!  Shortly after I posted a picture to my Facebook page, a friend commented that she had had one, and though they still used the bins, the frame had not lasted.  Indeed, the design is definitely not for the long haul, but using some leftover lumber, I could strengthen the rack and be able to mount it to the wall.  At almost 6' tall, I wasn't relishing the idea of bending over to reach the bottom bins, and I have much more wall space than floor space in my studio!

The dowels are simply held in with screws, not the
sturdiest construction!  (c)2013 Eric E. Paige

The first step was to cut a couple of leftover boards to the width of the unit.  I had a piece of 1" x 4" and a piece of 1" x "8 that I was able to cut to the right length.  HANDY HINT: 'dimensional lumber' is somewhat of a misnomer: a 1" x 4" is not actually one 1" x 4", it starts out that size, but is planed down to 3/4"x 3 1/2", and the finished size of a 1" x 8" is actually 3/4" x 7".

Pieces of 1" x 4" and  1" x 8" should make 
things more sturdy. (c) 2013 Eric E. Paige

I screwed the two boards to the back of the unit, placing them so none of the rods were in the way.  Because I was so close to the edge of the boards, I drilled pilot holes for the screws. I drilled the first pilot hole and put in the first screw and then drilled the second pilot hole on the opposite side and put in the second screw. With the board secure, I could go drill the next two holes and then do the screws.  If you don't want to have to keep switching from drill bit to screw bit, you could tack the board in place with some finishing nails (though I would still drill pilot holes for the nails).

Pilot holes will help prevent the board from splitting
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige 
Screw in place, no splitting! (c) 2013 Eric E. Paige

I then screwed the unit to a wall in my studio.  How you hang a weight bearing item varies depending on your walls.  If you have drywall, you may need to use a molly bolt or some other special hanger for any screws that aren't hitting a wooden stud (a stud finder can be very helpful).  In my many aparments I have encountered plaster walls, sheet rock applied over old lath, and paneling tacked to studs with nothing else behind it, plus a few other combinations.  Each one requires a different hanging system, so try and figure out what's there and ask for help at your local hardware store or big box hardware store.

Rack mounted to the wall. 
(c)2013 Eric Paige

Note how I staggered the screws, this will give additional strength.  I am not storing anything to heavy, but if it looks like I need more strength, I could screw the right side of the unit into the wall and/or install shelf brackets underneath for additional support.

Staggering the screws adds strength. (c) 2013 Eric E. Paige

Once the rack was secured to the walls, I put the bins back.  The bins can be set at an angle or lay flat -- I chose flat, since they hold more that way!

The rack in place. (c)2013 Eric E. Paige

Looking for more Re-purposing ideas?  Here are couple more of my projects:

Making A Table From A Discarded Stool

Bringing A Lamp Up-to-date With Paint

For more DIY home improvement/repair projects, check out these articles:

Turning A Bad 70s Paneling Job Into Fresh, New Walls

Patching A Tear In the Porch Roof

Repairing Damaged Walls